Coast Guard Commander Roberto Trevino, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, said at a news conference this afternoon that search-and-rescue missions were ongoing following an incident early morning Sunday, January 26, that left four crew members missing after two towing vessels collided on the Mississippi River at mile marker 123, near Luling, La., Sunday.
One of the crew members was subsequently recovered by a Good Samaritan vessel.
Trevino told the news conference, that search efforts would continue for as long as responders “believe there are still survivors.”
The response efforts began when watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report at 5:37 a.m. that the towing vessel RC Creppel and the towing vessel Cooperative Spirit had collided and that four members of the RC Creppel were missing.
The Cooperative Spirit was reportedly transiting up bound on the river when it entered a barge fleeting area and allied with barges before colliding with the towing vessel RC Creppel.
The collision caused the RC Creppel to sink and barges to break away.
The Coast Guard launched a 29-foot Response Boat-Small boat crew from Coast Guard Sector New Orleans and an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter air crew from Air Station New Orleans. One of the people in the water was recovered by a Good Samaritan vszzsl. The search for the other three is ongoing.
The RC Creppel was pushing two barges carrying sulfuric acid. One of these barges was damaged in the incident and reportedly released an unknown amount of vapor into the air. The Coast Guard says the source of the release is secured. A safety zone from mile marker 121 to 123 has been issued and traffic is closed to vessels in that area.
“This is a complex response that has a search-and-rescue component, as well as a pollution component that will require planning and coordination to execute,” said Capt. Kristi Luttrell, the Commanding Officer of Sector New Orleans. “We are working alongside our partners at the state and local levels to quickly assess the situation so that we can safely make every effort to find the missing mariners and minimize any further impact to the environment.”
Center of Toxicology and Environmental Health has been contracted for air monitoring.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
Involved in the response are:
- Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans
- Coast Guard Station New Orleans
- Port of South Louisiana
- St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office
- St. Charles Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Center